By Joshua Love, MDiv, LCDC-I
This work challenges us to be creative, intuitive, resourceful, hopeful, accountable, and mindful. It also calls us to be restful, setting aside the business of the day while working against the odds to support the healing of those whose lives have been broken by addiction.
Today, despite everything that states it cannot wait, our work must stop for us to rest. It is only through that time of quiet that we can surrender, heal, and restore.
I worked as a chaplain in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood a decade ago. I was newly sober again and passionate about my work. Monday through Friday, I saw patients from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Then, five days of the month, I worked 24 to 32-hour shifts covering the entire hospital on my own. Additionally, I had another job and was also in graduate school, completing my Master’s in Divinity.
I was passionate, and I felt deeply purposeful. My colleagues suggested I slow down, engage in self-care, and rest. But why? My life was thrumming with energy. I felt alive!
Then I relapsed. I felt deep shame and confusion. How had this happened? The answer was simple. I did not care for the one thing in the world for which I am most responsible: my own life.
So much right now can seem disordered. Life in the time of this pandemic, and the resulting mental and emotional health crisis, has strained many of our personal and professional resources. In the face of these difficulties, we can quickly feel overwhelmed and defeated, or we can slow down, find our center, breathe, and respond with strength because we have cared for ourselves.
I invite you to try it right now. Take a moment to stop responding or reacting and simply rest. Then, encourage your colleagues, patients, friends, and family members to do the same. We can be deeply challenged and still succeed when we tend to ourselves with care.